Cigars and alcohol. Two luxury products that go hand in hand, and sometimes even meet on business level. Aging tobacco in whisky, rum, or cognac barrels is a practice several brands do to achieve extra flavour to the wrapper for certain lines. The famous bourbon brand Maker’s Mark has their own cigar, sold in tubes with the signature wax coating. Drew Estate works with Pappy van Winkle and used to make Kahlua cigars. Mombacho used to have the Diplomatico series. General Cigars works with Sazerac, which resulted in Fireball cigars, Weller by Cohiba and collaborations with Buffalo Trace. And there is the Diesel Whisky Row, a collaboration with Rabbit Hole Distilleries. Fratello Cigars also sells craft beer. Most famous are probably the Cuban collaboration between Martell Cognac and Cohiba. Dominique London, the European retailer with more than 20 shops in the UK, Belgium, Switzerland and the Canary Islands takes it one step further. They bought a distillery in Wales and produce whisky, gin, rum, vodka and liquors.
Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur mainly produced in the southern part of Italy. It is the second most popular liqueur in Italy and is traditionally served chilled as an after-dinner digestive. It is also a popular homemade liqueur, with various recipes available online and in print. Limoncello is made from the zest of lemons and usually has a slightly cloudy appearance, which originates from the presence of small essential oil droplets suspended in the drink. The exact origin of limoncello is disputed. The industry trade group Federazione Italiana Industriali Produttori Esportatori ed Importatori di Vini, Acquaviti, Liquori, Sciroppi, Aceti ed affini says that limoncello was created at the beginning of the 1900s by the grandmother of Maria Antonia Farace, who lived in a small guesthouse in Isola Azzurra.. US sources say that it was either invented in Sicily about 100 years ago, or that it was first made on the Amalfi coast, where several villages and islands claim to be its place of origin.Others report that it may either have been invented by a citrus-grove tender from Azzurra around 1900 or by monks or fishermen much earlier.
I got myself a 50cl bottle of Limoncello Liquore de Liguria made by a distiller in Liguria, Distilleria Christiano Luca Ronco Scrivia and it is bottled for a Dutch alcohol importer and distributor. I can’t find any information about this specific limoncello online, or at least not in a language I understand. The ABV is 30%.
The ethanol in the nose would make you think this drink is much stronger than the 30% printed on the bottle. This combined with lemon of course, the main ingredient of limoncello. The flavour is surprisingly sweet with a lemon aftertaste, but with a little string of the alcohol in the throat. It’s like a thick, syrup-like in consistency, sweet lemonade. This is not the best alcohol to pair with a cigar, but if I would I’d take something with a smaller ring gauge and with a bit of strength. An EPC Pledge Lonsdale, Oliva Serie V Lancero or any Tatuaje Lancero for example.
Limoncello Lemon Drop
As the name suggest, this is a very citrus forward cocktail with a nod to the martini. On the nose there is a lot of lemon with a hint of the ethanol and the character of the vodka. I used the Y-Bet vodka from the Snowdonia distillery in Wales. Due to the sugar rim, this cocktail is sweet and sour but not in a Chinese ku lo kai or ku lo yuk (sweet & sour chicken or pork dish) way. Just very refreshing, summery, and sweet. There is a hint of the alcohol as well, making this a different drink compared to homemade lemonade. A bite, a little more depth and complexity. This is a cocktail I would not mind drinking before a nice barbeque with friends on a hot summer day. But the moment cigars come out, I will let the limoncello lemon drop (pun intended) and switch to another drink as this won’t pair well with a cigar. If you are adamant, try something strong to cut through the lemon.
And now for the Limoncello Lemon Drop recipe:
1 ounce or 30ml of vodka
½ ounce or 15ml of lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 ounces or 60 ml of Limoncello
Garnish: Lemon slice & Sugar
Rim the edge of a Martini glass with sugar. Add the vodka, lemon juice and limoncello in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into the Martini glass. Garnish with a lemon slice.
Limoncello Gin Collins
Tonic and ice make it impossible of the gin and the limoncello. The colour is cool, pale yellow. The taste is just like a gin tonic, with just a little bit of extra citrus. The limoncello does not bring a lot to the table to be honest. But that is a good thing for when it comes to pairing with cigars. Citrus and cigars don’t go well together but since the lemon in the limoncello is not that bad in this cocktail this pairs well with most medium bodied to full bodied cigars. I would prefer a cigar with a cedar or oak profile, a Charter Oak Habano Torpedo for example.
And now for the Limoncello Gin Collins recipe:
1¾ ounce or 50 ml of Limoncello
1½ ounce or 45ml of Foragers Gin
Tonic to top
garnish: Thyme and a slice of lime.
Pour the gin and limoncello in a Collins glass full of ice. Stir and then add the tonic, stir again gently. Add the thyme (optional) and the lime slice for garnish.